Limits of the Law

In responding to claims that Gentiles must be circumcised, Paul appealed to the common experience of the Spirit received by the Galatians. Did they receive the gift due to a “hearing of faith” or “from the works of the Law?” Having begun in the Spirit, why did they now seek the “completion” of their faith based on “flesh” by submitting to circumcision?

He then cited the example of Abraham who was “reckoned righteous from his faith,” and not from the rite of circumcision that he received later. Thus, Abraham became the “father” of all who are “from faith.”

Fence - Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash
[Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash]

In contrast, those who are from “
the works of the Law are under a curse.” As the Law itself attests, “cursed is every man who continues not in all things that are written in the book of the Law.” Had not Israel committed itself to do everything that Yahweh had commanded? - (Exodus 24:3, Deuteronomy 27:26, Galatians 3:5-10).

Jesus came to redeem men from the “curse of the Law” by becoming a curse on their behalf, so that the “blessing of Abraham,” the “promise of the Spirit,” might come upon Gentiles through faith rather than from the “works of the Law.”

Paul described the custom that “a man’s confirmed covenant” could not be altered after the fact. So also, the “promise” made to Abraham and to “his Seed,” Jesus. The covenant was confirmed by God 430 years before the Law was given, therefore, the Mosaic legislation did not add to or subtract from the original promise, and the latter takes precedence over the former. The inheritance is based on the “Promise,” not on the Law bestowed on Israel centuries afterward - (Galatians 3:15-19).

The Law was supplemental, an added interim stage that dealt with “transgressions until the Seed should come.” The Law was incapable of “making alive,” otherwise, “righteousness would have been in law.”  The Law “confined all things under sin that the promise might come on the basis of the faith of Jesus Christ.”

The Torah was Israel’s custodian “until Christ,” but, having come, “no longer were we under the custodian.” The custodianship of the Law ceased, and so, no longer could there be “Jew or Greek, bond or free, male and female.”

All who are in Christ become “Abraham’s Seed, according to promise, heirs,” and this is regardless of ethnicity, gender, or social status. The social divisions inherent in the Law no longer apply, though returning to “the works of the Law” would rebuild those barriers - (Galatians 3:23-29).

GUARDIANS AND STEWARDS


Paul provided a similar contrast in the fourth chapter of Galatians. While still a minor, the heir was “under guardians and stewards until the day appointed of by his father.”

So, also, before the coming of Jesus, “we were infants, in servitude under the elementary principles of the world until the fullness of time,” at which point he came to “redeem them who were under Law, that we might receive the adoption.”  Therefore, believers became sons and heirs rather than servants - (Galatians 4:1-6).

If the Torah still determined who was “in” and who was not, and if obedience to all of its regulations remained mandatory for right standing before God, then Paul’s entire argument would fall apart. Thus, his earlier declaration:  If acquittal before God is based on the “works of the Law,” then Jesus died in vain - (Galatians 2:17-21).

Stone fence - Photo by Jonathan Bean on Unsplash
[Photo by Jonathan Bean on Unsplash]

Put another way, if we are still “
under the Law,” then we are NOT heirs according to the promise, and therefore, we remain under servitude to the “elementary principles of the world.” Moreover, if this is true, we are still dead in our sins - (Romans 10:4 – “For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes”).

Anyone who puts himself under the jurisdiction of the Mosaic legislation rather than the “faith of Jesus,” including its requirement for circumcision will experience servitude, not liberty. To return to that state would mean the abandonment of the “faith of Jesus Christ” and render his death on Calvary pointless.


[Download PDF copy]



RELATED POSTS:

  • Justified from Faith - (Paul presents the points of agreement and disagreement with his opponents in the assemblies of Galatia)
  • Heirs in Jesus - (Returning to the custodianship of the Law would mean rebuilding the wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles)
  • Having started in the Spirit - (The receipt of the Spirit while in an uncircumcised state was irrefutable proof that Gentiles were accepted by God as Gentiles)


Comments

POPULAR POSTS

Rumors and Disinformation